Robert Kraft wants fans to think a big reason the Patriots couldn’t land their top free-agent target, Calvin Ridley, is because Ridley’s girlfriend prefers the sunny Southern climate over the harsh New England winters.

Kraft acknowledged New England’s quarterback situation “might” have played a factor, as well.

Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo probably would agree “might” is an understatement.

After all, the Patriots have major question marks hovering over their quarterback depth chart. Will they draft a top prospect at No. 3 overall? Will they trade back and build the roster elsewhere? (Both Kraft and Mayo kept the door open on the latter scenario.) Will veteran QB Jacoby Brissett serve as New England’s starter in 2024?

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It’s fair to think those questions would weigh heavily on a free-agent receiver, specifically. But they’re far from the only question marks. The reality is the Patriots are in the beginning stages of an organizational overhaul, and that’s not the most enticing situation for a player on the open market, regardless of whether said player is a receiver, an offensive tackle, an edge rusher, etc.

“I would say there are various reasons why guys didn’t sign with us,” Mayo told reporters Monday at the NFL league meeting in Orlando, Fla., per the Patriots. “Once again, the unknown is scary for a lot of people. And I would say even in our building right now it’s still unknown.”

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Mayo understands the Patriots currently are not a destination for free agents. It’s why he wants to target “magnets” in the NFL draft — players who others want to play for and play with.

Mayo played with the “ultimate magnet” in Tom Brady. Bill Belichick served as a magnet, as well. The combination of Brady and Belichick enticed players to come to New England because of the team’s winning culture and Super Bowl prospects.

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That’s no longer the case.

“So, it kind of gets skewed and now it’s the other end of the spectrum,” Mayo said. “Like what pieces do we have to attract those outside guys?”

The Patriots also got absolutely crushed in the NFLPA Report Card. Might that have played a major factor this offseason? Will it in the years to come?

Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows. Kraft and Mayo spoke about improvements the organization is looking to make in the near future, which could go a long way.

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The money offered goes a long way, too. Kraft said the finances were not an issue in the Ridley pursuit and that the Patriots would have kept increasing their offer if the receiver was interested in New England.

Mayo, though, knows one way to combat splurging on the open market is by drafting and developing. Patriots de facto general manager Eliot Wolf and Mayo are aligned in that thinking, the head coach said. And should the Patriots draft and develop successfully, those players then could turn into the “magnets” the team is looking for.

“Once again, if we draft a guy, you’re coming here,” Mayo said with a chuckle. “And so that has to be our philosophy as we continue to put this thing together.”

Mayo added: “The goal is always to have players want to come to your organization. And that is absolutely a process, we’re thinking about those things. And once again, the Krafts have given us the ability to really — I don’t want to say modernize, but to really do the things we want to do going forward to bring people in, which I think is important.”

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Right now, though, the Patriots aren’t in such a position. They’re not a destination attractive to free agents. And it makes the upcoming NFL draft all the more crucial for New England.

Featured image via Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports Images